[ Editor’s Note: Peter Murray, of the New London Architecture Center, together with a dozen architects and planners, is biking from Portland, Oregon to Portland Place in London, studying how cities are responding to the demand for better cycling infrastructure. He reports from the start of his ride. The Architect’s Newspaper is USA media sponsor of the trip and will post periodic updates of these architects on bicycles. As the P2P team gears up for its triumphant arrival in Manhattan on Sunday (June 30th) having completed the U.S. leg of the trip, Peter Murray looks back at some of the highlights of the last week’s riding. ]
One of the delights of cycling across the States has been to experience cities whose names were familiar to me but whose contemporary characteristics and qualities were a void. I am ashamed to admit that when first researching our route through Pittsburgh my main ideas of the city were influenced by scenes of Pennsylvania’s shrinking steel industry from Michael Cimino’s 1978 film The Deerhunter. Instead, I found that Pittsburgh is “the regeneration capital of the U.S.,” eds and meds have replaced steel and it has a fast-improving bicycle infrastructure. Much of the credit for this last piece of progress must go to the energy of Scott Bricker and Lou Fineberg who founded Bike Pittsburgh just over a decade ago. The city still has a long way to go but it has bike lanes and riverside trails and it is highly probable that the next Mayor will be the Democrat Bill Peduto, who is a strong supporter of better biking. Of buildings in the city, we much enjoyed H. H. Richardson’s powerful Allegheny Courthouse and Jail with its rough stone masonry and Romanesque detailing.
Is Anthony Weiner two-timing New York City? If you looked at the mayoral candidate’s website in late May, you might wonder whether he wants to lead parades in the Big Apple or the City of Steel. Perspicacious political reporter Michael Barbaro of the New York Post discovered that a backdrop image on Weiner’s website was not a view from Brooklyn across the East River, as it may seem on first glance, but rather a shot from the Robert Clemente Bridge leading into downtown Pittsburgh. Oops.
The Rockefeller Foundation has announced that four cities will receive a combined $1.2 million in grants to foster research, communications, and community outreach efforts in an endeavor to educate local stakeholders about the advantages of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems. The Foundation’s solution to “Transform Cities” and promote fiscal growth and quality of life proposes better mass transit investments. Boston, Chicago, Nashville, and Pittsburgh will participate in the project.
As part of the city’s first ever 25-year development plan, PLANPGH, Pittsburgh is taking a cue from Boston and rolling out a mobile talk show truck to hear what residents of each of the city’s 90 neighborhoods have to say about public art and urban design. TALKPGH will be cruising throughout the city on the glass-walled back of a box truck through April 20th as a public outreach effort from ARTPGH and DESIGNPGH, the public art and urban design branches of PLANPGH. The concerns and opinions voiced on the talk show will be taken into consideration during the creation of Pittsburgh’s first design manual, which will guide the city’s growth over the next 25 years.
Pittsburgh is the latest in a long line of cities preparing to launch a bike share system. According to the Bike PGH blog, Mayor Ravenstahl announced the 500-bike, 50-station program earlier this month. Similar to systems in other cities, bikes will be available for short-term rides for a small fee. Portland, OR-based Alta Planning and Design will partner with the city to launch the system, the same company involved with New York, Washington DC, and other major bike share systems. More information will be available at two community meetings scheduled for April 2nd and 3rd. The city hopes to roll out the new bikes in 2014.
Cities matter. In the Midwest recent headlines have read like an urban planning syllabus: post-industrial rebirth attracts a new generation of urbanites downtown, the roll-out of high-speed rail begins to pick up pace, and while innovative solutions to the region’s well-documented problems abound, a lingering fiscal crisis and unfunded pension liabilities threaten to squash even the most attainable aspirations.
Those topics and more made the agenda at University of Illinois Chicago’s annual Urban Forum held Thursday, whose lineup included the mayors of Columbus and Pittsburgh, as well as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Metropolitan Resilience in a Time of Economic Turmoil” was the topic at hand.
White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes
Carnegie Museum of Art
4400 Forbes Avenue
Through January 13, 2013
With the exhibition White Cube Green Maze at the Heinz Architectural Center in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, curator Raymund Ryan moved beyond the predictable white enclosed gallery, creating a maze, which forces viewers to navigate museum space and interact with art in new ways. The exhibition presents a series of six innovative designs from around the world that blend landscape design, modern architecture, art, and environment. The sites are shown with photos, presentation models, sketches by various artists and historical designs and redesigns of the sites, offering an understanding of how collaborative the design processes were. Visitors can wander through the exhibition’s different pavilions that open to beautiful outdoor spaces. The sites in the exhibition include the Olympic Sculpture Park (USA), Stiftung Insel Hombroich (Germany), Benesse Art Site Naoshima (Japan), Instituto Inhotim (Brazil), Jardín Botánico de Culiacán (Mexico), and Grand Traiano Art Complex (Italy), all captured in architectural photographs by Iwan Baan.
The airline industry was hit hard by the recession—2011 had fewer takeoffs than any year since 2002. Airports in cities like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Oakland are feeling the effects of that contraction, leaving one-time regional hubs and smaller airports with vacant and underused terminals.
A report on airport building reuse commissioned last year by the Transportation Research Board found enplanements were down more than 60 percent in St. Louis over the last decade. Growing interest in regional rail transit could place further pressure on smaller airports to get creative with their extra space, especially as they face costly demolition bills and shrinking revenue.
BEFORE SUBZERO, REFRIGERATORS WERE WHITE (OR AVOCADO)
Eavesdrop jetted to pollen-crusted Raleigh, NC, with an eclectic herd of reporters from the likes of Sculpture magazine and The Jewish Daily Forward to tour the North Carolina Museum of Art expansion designed by Thomas Phifer. We were not disappointed. The 127,000-square-foot museum is an elegant, single-story box penetrated by courtyards, pools, and gardens. The interior and exterior details are so deliciously subtle that they seemed to elude some of the mainstream press, who asked him why he didn’t site the building to dominate the street. Articulate and precise, Phifer hypnotized the skeptics by explaining every strategy convincingly, and they hung on his every word. (Check out AN correspondent Thomas de Monchaux’s own critical appraisal in our next issue.) Read More
Ask anyone from Pittsburgh (present company included) what the blinking light atop the Grant Building is, and they’ll quickly respond, “Easy! It spells out Pittsburgh in morse code.” Well, not exactly. Turns out a local grad student who also happens to be a ham radio operator was up on Mount Washington for the annual 4th of July fireworks (of which we have the best, courtesy the great Zambelli family). While he waited for the lights to go off, he was watching the red flashing light atop the Grant Building–the city’s first skyscraper when it was completed in 1929 and a wonderful art deco achievement by Henry Hornbostel–when he noticed something that didn’t belong. Read More